THE NATURE AND DANGER OF MAKING LIGHT OF CHRIST AND HIS SALVATION.
" But they made light of it."—Matt. xxii. 5.
This parable represents the great God under the majestic idea of a king.
He is represented as making a marriage feast for his son; that is, God in the gospel offers his Son Jesus Christ as a Saviour to the guilty sons of men, and, upon their acceptance of him, the most intimate endearing union and the tenderest mutual affection take place between Christ and them; which may very properly be represented by the marriage relation. And God has provided for them a rich variety of blessings—pardon, holiness, and everlasting felicity, which may be signified by a royal nuptial feast. Verse 2.
These blessings were first offered to the Jews, who were bidden to the wedding by Moses and the prophets, whose great business it was to prepare them to receive the Messiah. Verse 3. The servants that were sent to call them, that were thus bidden, were the apostles and seventy disciples, whom Christ sent out to preach that the gospel kingdom was just at hand. When the Jews rejected this call, he sent forth other servants, namely, the apostles, after his ascension, who were to be more urgent in their invitations, and to tell them that, in consequence of Christ's death, all things were now ready. It is seldom that invitations to a royal feast are rejected; but, alas! the Jews rejected the invitations of the gospel, and would not accept of its im
Eortant blessings. They made light of Christ, and his lessings; they were careless to them, and turned their attention to other things. These things were not peculiar to the Jews, but belong to us sinners of the Gentiles m these ends of the earth. Christ is still proposed to us; to the same blessings we are invited; and I have the honor, my dear brethren, of appearing among you as a servant of the heavenly King, sent out to urge you to embrace the offer. I doubt not but sundry of you have complied; and you are enriched and made for ever.
But, alas! must I not entertain a godly jealousy over some of you ? Have you not made light of Christ and salvation, to which you nave been invited for so many years successively ?
Your case is really lamentable, as I hope you will see before I have done; and I most sincerely compassionate you from my heart. I now rise up in this solemn place with the design to address you with the most awful seriousness, and the most compassionate concern; and did you know how much your happiness may depend upon it, and how anxious I am lest I should fail in the attempt, I am sure you could not but pray for me, and pity me. If ever you regard a man in the most serious temper and address, I beg you would now regard what I am going to say to you.
You cannot receive benefit from this, or indeed any other subject, till you apply it to yourselves. And therefore, in order to reform you of the sin of making light of Christ and the gospel, I must first inquire who are guilty of it. For this purpose let us consider,—
What it is to make light of Christ and the invitations of the gospel.
I can think of no plainer way to discover this than to inquire, how we treat those things that we highly esteem; and also, by way of contrast, how we treat those things which we make light of; and hence we may discover whether Christ and the gospel may be ranked among the things we esteem, or those we disregard.
I. Men are apt to remember and affectionately think of the things that they highly esteem; but as for those which they disregard, they can easily forget them, and live from day to day without a simple thought about them.. Now, do you often affectionately remember the Lord Jesus, and do your thoughts affectionately go after him? Do they pay him early visits in the morning? Do they make frequent excursions to him through the day, and do you lie down with him in your hearts at night? Is not the contrary evident as to many of you? Can you not live from day to day thoughtless of Jesus and your everlasting salvation? Eecollect, now, how many affectionate thoughts have you had of these things through the week past, or in this sacred morning. And can you indeed highly esteem those things which you hardly ever think of? Follow your own hearts, sirs; observe which way they most naturally and freely run, and then judge whether you make light of the gospel or not. Alas! we cannot persuade men to one hour's serious consideration, what they should do for an interest in Christ; we cannot persuade them so much as to afford him only their thoughts, which are such cheap things; and yet they will not be convinced that they make light of Christ. And here lies the infatuation of sin: it blinds and befools men, so that they do not know what they think of, what they love, or what they intend; much less do they know the habitual bent of their souls. They often imagine themselves free from those sins to which they are most enslaved, and particularly they think themselves innocent of the crime of making light of the gospel, when this is the very crime that is likely to destroy them for ever.
II. The things that men value, if of such a nature as to admit of publication, will be the frequent subjects of their discourse; the thoughts will command the tongue, and furnish materials for conversation. But those things that they forget and disregard they will not talk of. Do not they, therefore, make light of Christ and salvation, who have no delight in conversing about them, and hardly ever mention the name of Christ but in a trifling or profane manner? And do not such make light of the gospel? and is not this the character of many of you?
III. We take the utmost pains and labor to secure the things we value, and cannot be easy -while our property in them is uncertain; but those things that we seldom think of, we care but little whether they be ours or not.
Therefore, have not such of you made light of Christ and salvation, who have lived twenty or thirty years uncertain whether you have an interest in him, and yet have been easy and contented, and take no method to be resolved ? Are all that hear me this day determined on this important question, " What shall become of me when I die ? Are you all certain, upon good grounds, and after a thorough trial, that you shall be saved? O that you were; but, alas! you are not. And do you think you would bear this uncertainty about it, if you did not make light of salvation? No; you "would carefully examine yourselves; you would diligently peruse the Scriptures, to find out the marks of those that shall be saved; you would anxiously consult those that could direct you, and particularly pious ministers, who would think it the greatest favor you could do them to devolve such an office upon them.
O, sirs, if the gospel should pierce your hearts indeed, you could but cry out, with the convicted Jews, Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved ?
IV. The things that men highly esteem, deeply and tenderly affect them, and excite some motions in their hearts; but what they make light of makes no impression upon them.
And if you did not make light of the gospel, what workings would there be in your hearts about it ? what solemn, tender, and vigorous passions would it raise in you to hear such things about the world to come! what sorrow would burst from your hearts at the discovery of your sins! what fear and astonishment would seize you at the consideration of your misery! what transports of joy and gratitude would you feel at the glad tidings of salvation by the blood of Christ! what strong efficacious purposes would be raised in your minds at the discovery of your duty ! O what hearers should we have, were it not for this one sin, the making light of the gospel! Whereas, now, we talk to them till they grow quite tired of this dull old tale, and this foolishness of preaching. Alas! little would one think, from the air of carelessness, levity, and inattention that appears among them, that they were hearing such weighty truths, or have any concern in them.
V. Our estimate of things may be discovered by the diligence and earnestness of our endeavors about them. Those things which we highly value, we think no pains too great to obtain; but what we think lightly of, we use no endeavors about, or we use them in a languid, careless manner.
And do not they make light of Christ and salvation who do not exert themselves in earnest to obtain them, and think a great deal of every little thing they do in religion? They are still ready to cry out, " What need of so much pains? we hope to be saved without so much trouble." They love and esteem the world, and therefore for the world they will labor and toil all day, and seem never to think they can do too much; but for the God that made them, for the Lord that bought them, and for their everlasting salvation, they seem afraid of taking too much pains. Let us preach to them as long as we will, we cannot bring them to desire and pursue after holiness. Follow them to their houses, and you will hardly ever find them reading a chapter in their bibles, or calling upon God with their families, so much as once a day. Follow them into their retirements, and you will hear no penitent confessions of sin, no earnest cries for mercy. They will not allow to God that one day in seven which he has appropriated to his own immediate service, but they will steal and prostitute some even of those sacred hours for idleness, or worldly conversation, or business.
VI. That which we highly value we think we cannot buy too dear; and we are ready to part with every thing that comes in competition with it. The merchant that found one pearl of great price, sold all that he had to purchase it; but those things that we make light of, we will not part with things of value for them.
Now, when Christ and the blessings of the gospel come in competition with the world and sinful pleasures, you may know which you most highly esteem, by considering which you are most ready to part with. You are called to part with every thing that is inconsistent with an interest in Christ, and yet many of you will not do it. You are called to resign all to his will, to let go those profits and pleasures, which you must either part with, or.part with Christ; and yet your hearts cling to these; you grasp them eagerly, and nothing can tear them from you. And does not this bring the matter to an issue, and plainly show that you make light of Christ in comparison of these things ?
VII. That which men highly esteem they will so diligently pursue that you may see their regard for it in their endeavors after it, if it be a matter within their reach.
You may therefore see that many make light of the gospel by the little knowledge they have of it, after all the means of instruction with which they have been favored. Alas! where is their improvement in holiness? How little do they know of their own hearts, of God and Christ, and the world to come, and what they must do to be saved! Ask them about these things, and you will find them stupidly ignorant. When men that can learn the hardest trade in a few years; when men of bright parts, and, perhaps, considerable learning, after living so many years, are still mere novices in matters of religion, and do not so much as know the terms of life according to the gospel, is it not plain that they care but little about these things, and that they make light of the Son of God, and all his inestimable immortal blessings ?
Thus I have offered you sufficient matter of conviction in this affair. And what is the result ? does riot conscience smite some of you by this time, and say, " I am the man that have made light of Christ and his gospel?" If not, upon what evidence are you acquitted? Some of you, I doubt not, can say, in the integrity of your hearts, " Alas! I am too careless about this important affair, but God knows I am often deeply concerned about it; God knows that if ever I was in earnest about any thing in my life, it has been about my everlasting state; and there is nothing in all the world that habitually lies so near my heart." But are not some of you whom conscience does not accuse of this crime of too much carelessness about the gospel, not because you are innocent, but because you make so light of it, that you will make no thorough search into it? and does not this alone prove you guilty ? I beseech such to consider the folly of their conduct. Do you think to excuse your crime, by being careless whether you are guilty of it or not ? Can you avoid the precipice by shutting your eyes ? If you discover your sin now, it may be of unspeakable service, but if you now shut your eyes you must see it hereafter, when it will be too late; when your conviction will be your punishment. I beseech you also to consider the dreadful evil of your conduct of making light of a Saviour. And here I shall offer such arguments to expose its aggravations as I am sure cannot fail to convince and astonish you, if you act like men of reason and understanding.
I. Consider you make light of him who did not make light of you, when you deserved his final neglect of you. Christ was so far from making light of you, that he left his native heaven, became a man of sorrows, and died in the most exquisite agonies, that a way might be opened for the salvation of your miserable soul; and can you make light of him after all his regard to you? What miracles of love and mercy has he shown towards you! and can you neglect him after all ? Angels, who are less concerned in these things than we, cannot but pry into them with delightful wonder; and shall sinners, who have the most intimate personal concern in them, make light of them?
II. Consider you make light of matters of the greatest excellency and importance in the world. Oh, sirs, you know not what it is that you slight; had you known these things you would not have ventured to make light of them for ten thousand worlds. Had you been but one day in heaven, and seen and felt the happiness there! or had yoa been one hour under the agonies of hell, you could never have trifled with salvation.
" O Lord, that men did but know what everlasting glory and everlasting torments are! would they then hear us as they do ? would they read and think of these things as they do ? I profess I have been ready to wonder when I have heard such weighty things delivered, how people can forbear crying out in the congregation, and much more do I wonder how they can rest, till they have gone to their ministers and learned what they shall do to be saved, that this great business should be put out of doubt. Oh that heaven and hell should work no more upon men! Oh that eternity should work no more! Oh how can you forbear when you are alone to think with yourselves what it is to be everlastingly in joy or torment! I wonder that such thoughts do not break your sleep, and that they do not crowd into your minds when you are about your labor! I wonder how you can almost do any thing less! How can you have any quietness in your minds, how can you eat, or drink, or rest, till you have got some ground of everlasting consolations ? Truly, sirs, when I think of the weight of the matter, I wonder at the best saints upon earth, that they are no better, and do no more in so weighty a case. I wonder at those whom the world accounts more holy than needs, and scorns for making too much ado, that they can put off Christ and their souls with so little; that their thoughts are not more serious in preparation for their last account. I wonder that they are not a thousand times more strict in their lives, and more laborious and unwearied for the crown than they are."
III. Consider whose salvation it is you make light of. It is your own. And do you not care what becomes of your own selves ? Is it nothing to you whether you be saved or damned for ever ? If you slight Christ and love sin, you virtually love death. You may as well say, " I will live, and yet neither eat nor drink," as say, " I will go to heaven, and yet make light of Christ." And you may as well say this in words as by your practice.
IV. Consider your sin is aggravated by professing to believe that gospel which you make light of. For a professed infidel that does not believe the Scripture revelation concerning Christ and a future state of rewards and punishments, for such a one to be careless about these things would not be so strange; but for you that make these things your creed, and a part of your religion, for you that call yourselves Christians, and have been baptized into this faith; for you I say to make light of them, how astonishing ! how utterly inexcusable! What! believe that you shall live for ever in the most perfect happiness or exquisite misery, and yet take no pains to obtain the one, and escape the other ? Either say plainly " I am no Christian, I do not believe these things; or else let your hearts be affected with your belief, and let it influence and govern your lives.
V. Consider what those things are which engross your affections, and which tempt you to neglect Christ and your salvation. Have you found out a better friend, or a more substantial and lasting happiness than his salvation ? Oh! what trifles and vanities, what dreams and shadows are men pursuing, while they neglect the important realities of the eternal world! If crowns and kingdoms, if all the riches, glories, and pleasures of the world were insured to you as a reward for making light of Christ, you would even then make the most foolish bargain possible; for what are these in the scale to eternal joy or eternal tempest? and what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world, and lose his own soul 1 Alas! what does the richest, the highest, the most voluptuous sinner, what does he do, but lay up treasures of wrath against the day of wrath? Oh, how will the unhappy creatures torture themselves for ever with the most cutting reflections for selling their Saviour and their souls for such trifles!
VI. Your making light of Christ and salvation is a certain evidence that you have no interest in them. Christ will not throw himself and his blessings away upon those that do not value them. " Those who honor him he will honor; but they that despise him shall be lightly esteemed." There is a day coming, when you will feel you cannot do without him; when you will feel yourselves perishing for want of a Saviour; and then you may go and look for a Saviour where you will; then you may shift for yourselves as you can; he will have nothing to do with you; the Saviour of sinners will cast you off forever.
VII. And lastly, the time is hastening when you will not think so slightly of Christ and salvation. Oh, sirs, when God shall commission death to tear your guilty souls out of your bodies, when devils shall drag you away to the place of torment, when you find yourselves condemned to everlasting fire by that Saviour whom you now neglect, what would you then give for a Saviour ? When divine justice brings in its heavy charges against you, and you have nothing to answer, how will you then cry, " Oh, if I had chosen Jesus for my Saviour, he would have answered all." When you see that the world has deserted you, that your companions in sin have deceived themselves and you, and all your merry days are over for ever, would you not then give ten thousand worlds for Christ ? And will you not now think him worthy of your esteem and earnest pursuit?
And now, dear immortal souls, I have discovered the
nature and danger of this common but unsuspected and unlamented sin, making light of Christ. I have delivered my message, and now I must leave it with you, imploring the blessing of God upon it. I cannot follow you home to your houses to see what effect it has upon you, or to make application of it to each of you in particular; but, O may your consciences undertake this office. Whenever you spend another prayerless, thoughtless day, whenever you give yourselves up to sinful pleasures, or an over-eager pursuit of the world, may your conscience become your preacher, and sting you with this expostulation: " Alas! is this the effect of all I have heard ? Do I make light of Christ and the concerns of religion ? Oh, what will be the end of such a conduct!"
I cannot but fear, after all, that some of you, as usual, will continue careless and impenitent. Well, when you are suffering the punishment of this sin in hell, remember that you were warned, and acquit me for being accessory to your ruin. And when we all appear before the supreme Judge, and I am called to give an account of my ministry: when I am asked, " Did you warn these creatures of their danger ? Did you lay before them their guilt in making light of these things?" you will allow me to answer, " Yes, Lord, I warned them in the best manner I could, but they would not believe me; they would not regard what I said, though enforced by the authority of thy awful name, and 3onfirmed by thine own word." O sirs, must I give in this accusation against any of you ? No, rather have mercy upon yourselves, and have mercy upon me, that I may give an account of you with joy and not with grief.